By: Zahra Chaudhry
Regardless of personal political views, now that the election is over, Americans are looking ahead to see what the new administration under President Trump will bring. However, right now is also a time in which many of us reflect on the past eight years and the historic presidency of Barack Obama.
Whether you agree with his policies or not, citizens of this country can be proud to have witnessed the first African American president and can appreciate the grace, charisma, and diplomacy with which he led the nation. There is a lot to learn by revisiting some of the major steps of the past administration; each of us can decide what it is that we want from leadership in the future, and try to comprehend how the changes made by this last Commander in Chief will undoubtedly impact the country going forward.
One cannot discuss Barack Hussein Obama without mentioning his signature piece of healthcare legislation, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. This policy was initiated as the first step in getting our nation closer to universal healthcare, like every other developed nation in the world, but it has seen some strong opposition. The ACA is revolutionary, because it gave health insurance to an additional 20 million people, it guarantees that people with pre-existing health conditions are not turned away from insurance companies, and it allows young people to stay under their parents’ healthcare plan until they are 26 years old.
Congressional members who are opposed to the ACA cite high premiums and deductibles for middle class families as the reason for wanting to repeal it, and have promised, for the past several years, to draft a policy that will maintain all of the positives of the law while driving down the price—no plan has been presented as of yet.
When Obama took office, the country was embroiled in the biggest financial crisis we had seen since the Great Depression; he reversed it by revamping the automobile industry and bailing out major banks. While the latter move was initially criticized, the combination of many efforts to bring us out of the recession created the longest streak of job growth in America’s 240 year history. Also in the last eight years, the unemployment rate has been cut in half.
Militarily, President Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq, exponentially reduced the number of prisoners in tax-payer funded Guantanamo Bay, and led the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden. While the majority of Americans wanted our troops home, some critics suggest that the prompt retreat from Iraq allowed the rise of more militant groups in the country.
Number 44 also negotiated the Iran Nuclear Deal, thereby shutting down Iran’s nuclear program. Fighting for nuclear disarmament through this deal meant thwarting off demonstrably deadly threats to the world and making peace all the more possible without sacrificing our troops or resources by pulling us into intervention—a key focus of his foreign policy. In signing the Iran Nuclear Deal, the US and its allies removed many of the sanctions that had forced declines in Iran’s economy.
Another major diplomatic deal was the Paris Agreement, which finally made combatting climate change and protecting the Earth for generations to come a priority on the world stage. Every nation on Earth signed this agreement, other than Syria (who has other problems right now, to say the least) and Nicaragua–who said the agreement did not do enough to fight climate change.
Obama was, of course, loved by liberals and opposed by conservatives. Based on your own political party alignment you can say what you want about his policies, but it’s hard to argue that he was a forgettable president. Decades from now in history classes, it’s doubtful that he’ll be mentioned amongst John Tyler or Chester Arthur, instead of more memorable Chief Executives such as Roosevelt or Kennedy.
Polarizing conversation might make it seem like the country is running off course, and many people have genuine concerns that politicians must address, but it’s important to remember that America has made it through much tougher times than this. Let us be optimistic for the future, peacefully advocate for what we believe in, and be involved in the political system, while rallying behind our current leaders when we need to.
Pertaining to us students preparing for college and for future careers, President Obama had this to say in his farewell address, “This generation coming up – you are unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America…you’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.”
Wow, thanks Obama.